Researchers Recreate What an Ancient Egyptian Mummy Sounds Like

Movies may have increased your expectations.


Image via Getty/izanbar

Egyptian mummy

In yet another example of something that's way cooler in the movies, University of London researchers busted their asses to reconstruct the noise a mummy would make if he came back from the dead.

So what does it sound like? Well, even if it was coming from the bandaged reanimated corpse of a monster slowing walking towards you, you'd likely still just roll your eyes and say a variation of "aw, come on, bro" in the most disappointed tone you can muster. There's probably a reason The Telegraphdisabled comments for this video:

View this video on YouTube

While the voice of the mummy himself is a bit of a letdown, the process used by London researchers to give him sound is pretty interesting. 

That group scanned the throat and mouth of Nesyamun, an Egyptian priest who lived in Thebes roughly 3,000 years ago, and then 3D printed it. From there they constructed an electronic larynx to recreate the sound he would make were he ever to come back to life, according to Scientific Reports. A loudspeaker (similar to those on ice cream trucks) had also been taken and had its horn removed to be replaced by said 3D printed vocal tract.

When living, Nesyamun had practiced at a temple where he sang and chanted words of worship. After he was ritually mummified his coffin was sealed with the inscription "Nesyamun, true of voice."

Scientist David Howard, who's a speech scientist at the University of London, said the noise you heard was "the sound that would come out of his vocal tract if he was in his coffin and his larynx came to life again."

As the abstract for the whole study puts it:

The sound of a 3,000 year old mummified individual has been accurately reproduced as a vowel-like sound based on measurements of the precise dimensions of his extant vocal tract following Computed Tomography (CT) scanning, enabling the creation of a 3-D printed vocal tract. By using the Vocal Tract Organ, which provides a user-controllable artificial larynx sound source, a vowel sound is synthesised which compares favourably with vowels of modern individuals.

As it turns out, Nesyamun's preserved remains were actually an essential factor towards making this whole thing work.

“The actual mummification process was key here,” said one of the paper's authors, Joann Fletcher, according to The New York Times. “The superb quality of preservation achieved by the ancient embalmers meant that Nesyamun’s vocal tract is still in excellent shape.”

More importantly, the reconstruction of the mummy's pipes could provide a base that'll allow modern society to listen to how people from thousands of years ago spoke and sounded beyond basic vowel noises.

“He certainly can’t speak at the moment,” said Howard. “But I think it’s perfectly plausible to suggest that one day it will be possible to produce words that are as close as we can make them to what he would have sounded like.”

Latest in Life